Trump's once favourite aide now central to Russian Federation investigation

NATION-NOW     5 things you need to know Thursday     
       5 things you need to know Thursday
NATION-NOW 5 things you need to know Thursday 5 things you need to know Thursday
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18 January, 2018

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon has received a grand jury subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian election interference and possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.

The New York Times reported that Mueller's subpoena was the first grand jury subpoena issued against a member of Trump's inner circle in the probe. Yet, after negotiations between Bannon's attorney and Mueller's office, the two parties have agreed that Bannon will be interviewed by Mueller's office like other White House staffers instead of testifying before the grand jury.

Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon arrives for an interview by the House Intelligence Committee investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 USA election on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday.

Mr Schiff later said Mr Bannon had refused to answer questions about conversations held both during his time at the White House and during the transition between the election and Mr Trump's inauguration.

During the day-long interview Tuesday, Bannon's attorney Bill Burck was asking the White House counsel's office by phone whether his client could answer the questions.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants to hear what Bannon has to say on this issue.

Schiff said a White House attorney other than White House counsel Don McGahn reconfirmed this should continue after the committee served Bannon with a subpoena during the interview yesterday. Formally asserting executive privilege could be embarrassing for the White House, which has insisted it has nothing to hide in the ongoing Russian Federation investigation and that it is cooperating fully. Even then, Bannon refused to answer questions.

Mr Bannon was sacked by the White House in August and returned to the right-wing news website Breitbart News.

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A top Democrat has said the White House imposed a "gag order" on Bannon. Once redirected, the agents sent the order to Burck, who is also representing two other witnesses in the probe being led by special counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Bannon's quotes took a toll on his relationship with the president, who nicknamed him "Sloppy Steve" and publicly lashed out of him, and poisoned his position at Breitbart News.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Bannon did not comment substantively Tuesday evening as he left Capitol Hill.

The White House is "going to be fully cooperative" with Mueller and "encourage everybody involved in the process to be fully cooperative", press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday.

The subpoena is a sign that Bannon is not personally the focus of the investigation.

In Michael Wolff's book, Fire And Fury, Mr Bannon accuses Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of essentially betraying the nation by meeting with a group of Russian lawyers and lobbyists who they believed were ready to offer "dirt" on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Neither Bannon nor his lawyer immediately responded to a request for comment Monday.

Defense lawyers said the government had not produced all the evidence it gathered and they needed more time to study it and file motions.


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